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One-third of global students 'lack remote learning access'

August 27, 2020

Over 463 million kids whose schools closed due to the pandemic are not able to engage in distance learning, UNICEF has warned. The youngest, as well as those from poor or rural households, are most likely to miss out.

Symbolbild Coronavirus Homeschooling
Image: picture-alliance/empics/I. West

At least a third of the world's schoolchildren have been unable to access remote learning during school closures due to the pandemic, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Thursday.

In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly half of all students cannot be reached with remote learning, while over a third in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia cannot, according to the report.

E-learning in times of COVID-19

Read moreZoom outage disrupts US schools as students start online classes 

At the height of global lockdowns, around 1.5 billion schoolchildren were affected by school closures. For at least 463 million children whose schools closed due to COVID-19, there was no such thing as remote learning," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF's executive director.

The youngest schoolchildren, and those from the poorest households or living in rural areas, are the most likely to miss out on remote learning.

"The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency," she said, adding that economic and societal effects would be felt for decades.

Digital indoctrination during homeschooling in China

The report examined data from 100 countries on the availability of remote technology and tools needed for online learning, including access to television, radio and internet.

In addition to the estimated figure of 463 million with total lack of access, UNICEF has warned that the situation is likely to be far worse.

Read moreUN warns of 'generational catastrophe' over coronavirus school closures 

Even when children do have the necessary technology and tools at home, they may not be able to learn remotely through those platforms due to distractions at home or having to work, the agency said.

Additionally, the youngest students are those most vulnerable to missing out on remote learning due to limitations and a lack of resources for pre-primary age kids. At least 70%, or 120 million children in the youngest age group do not have access to remote learning methods.

Read moreGermany closes two schools due to fresh coronavirus outbreaks 

"UNICEF is calling for urgent investment to bridge the digital divide," the statement read.

The agency called on governments to safely reopen schools, expand access to remote learning and factor in compensatory classtime for lost instructional time during the pandemic into school reopening plans.

Over 820,000 people have died of COVID-19 worldwide,  while over 24 million cases have been confirmed.

lc/stb (dpa)

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